Earlier today I went to the neighborhood art supply store to buy some birthday cards and was shocked to see three rows of display racks filled on both sides with all sorts of 2014 calendars. September seemed far too early to even consider selecting a calendar for 2014, and yet there they were. The choice of calendars was dazzling and overwhelming. The basic utilitarian calendars -- arranged either monthly, weekly, or daily -- seemed sparse, with nothing more than lines for appointments and notes. The leather-bound calendars spoke of either inflated self-importance or of futile attempts to make time permanent. There were wall calendars highlighting a variety of subjects: puppies and horses and cows and gymnasts and famous major-league pitchers and fire fighters and flowers. Some calendars closed with magnets. Some hung from ribbons.
I was fascinated more with the fact of the calendars than with the calendars themselves. I stood in the middle of the calendars and tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Frozen in (dare I say?) time while at the same time surrounded by it, I thought back to my first attempts at managing my own time. One December of my childhood, my father received duplicate copies of a bound calendar. The calendars were promoting an insurance company clearly unable to manage its mailing lists. He gave me his extra calendar.
"What would I do with two of them?" he asked rhetorically.
In a childhood structured only by school and sunsets, my red bound calendar seemed miraculous. I created a schedule and wrote it down: Go To School. Go To School. Write Book Report. My schedule was vague but sufficiently significant to record. Neither my father nor I chose our calendars. They were mailed, and in fact, after that one errant mailing the insurance company corrected its ways and going forward sent only one. The next December I had to find my own method of marking and managing my days.
Standing in the art store this afternoon surrounded by time, I remembered that red give-away calendar and its significance in my childhood, and I wondered if my choice of calendar matters. If I purchase a leather-bound calendar with a magnetic closure and if I use a fine fountain pen to make my entries, will my time matter more than if I buy the functional but unadorned month-on-a-page calendar and make my entries with the free promotional pen the realtor wanting to sell my home gave me?
My father had only one calendar each year and that one calendar was always a gift from some company wanting to sell him something. For some time, I also had only one calendar. I generally agonized over selecting it until the selection grew so thin I had no choice and then I bought whatever was still available. Gradually though, more and more methods of managing my time crept into my life, until I now realize that I sometimes spend way too much time managing my calendars and not nearly enough time tending to the events highlighted on my various devices. I have my desk calendar. I have the calendar on my computer. Now I have the calendar in my phone. Of course, I also have a calendar small enough to carry in my bag. And what am I supposed to do with the calendar given to me as a gift, except use it also? Time, after all, cannot be wasted. Nor can time-management devices. Then there's the calendar in the kitchen and the calendar on the bulletin board behind my desk. I am expert at marking time and often I am even pretty good at managing it. Sometimes I even manage to kill it, although as my own time increases behind me and dwindles in front of me, I commit that time slaughter less frequently, and with regret.
Time matters and how we mark it and manage it also matters. Otherwise the art store of this afternoon would not have so many calendars for sale. We hope that what we do with our time matters more than the devices we use for managing it. Perhaps my calendar selection for 2014 will be a plain red bound calendar with nothing inside except dated, blank pages.
I didn't become so lost in time that I forgot to buy the birthday cards. There was quite a large selection of them, too, but I was able to make my selections without any major difficulties. The niece and the nephew will receive their birthday greetings on time because each year into eternity my cell phone alarm will remind me of their September birthdays.
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